Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
MrJibbles

afc Wenger's Generation Game

Recommended Posts

The Uefa Elite Coaches Forum is not so much a talking shop as a Harrods of football conversation. Even “special” delegates cannot help but be impressed. During a recess at the last meeting, in Nyon in Switzerland this month, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger were deep in discussion. Eager to be included, Jose Mourinho strolled over and remarked that here were the three of them, former rivals, now peers. The facial expressions of the other two suggested that, even for Mourinho, this was chutzpah. Enmity between Ferguson and Wenger has dissipated with the recognition that, in their profession, they alone are on a similar path and plane.Mourinho has his titles, but trophies are just a fluctuating currency of managerial greatness. The bullion whose value endures is banked when a manager creates a legacy. Wenger, who celebrates 12 years at Arsenal this weekend, is as much the father of his football club as Ferguson is of Manchester United. No others in the game can say they are leaving such a stamp.When a team of apprentice Gunners, eight of them teenagers, none older than 23, obliterated Sheffield United on Tuesday, it seemed Wenger had finally arrived at the perfect distillation of what he represents. Here was football played geometrically, elegantly, ruthlessly, with speed and elan — by kids. The FA Youth Cup began on Wednesday with Rolls- Royce Leisure v Retford United among the qualifying fixtures, but the real Rolls-Royce of youth development had already purred out of the garage.Only at Arsenal could a Mexican boy mark his first start with three goals, each more impudent than the previous one: Carlos Vela, just 19, looks like an Aztec Robbie Fowler. Cesc Fabregas is merely 21. Only at Arsenal could a “new Fabregas” have emerged already: Fran Merida, another playmaker plucked from Barcelona, is his predecessor’s double except for being left-footed.Wenger arrived in the Premier League months after United’s first championship with their “David Beckham generation” of youth products and the Frenchman believes he has the prodigies to change English football in the way Ferguson did in the 1990s. “We can achieve what United did,” Wenger said. “I feel we have the quality to be successful with this group. What has changed is patience levels have become shorter and we are in a situation where people say, ‘You haven’t won anything for three years, you need to win the championship’. Yes, that’s true, but I do what I believe is right and leave people to judge . . . and I feel I can be successful this way.”Watching young Arsenal teams triumph in the Carling Cup is an annual pleasure but Tuesday was a phenomenon. The team was so green that one of its main stars, Jack Wilshere, has been given a 19-year-old, Theo Walcott, for a mentor. Wilshere joined first-team training when he was 15 and became Arsenal’s youngest league player, at 16 years and 256 days, when he featured against Blackburn.Wenger was especially pleased that seven of the 14 starlets he used last week were British and the criticism that he ignores indigenous talent is being debunked. “We now have — surprise, surprise for you all — many good young English players,” he said. “Against Sheffield United we had four on the pitch at the start and they did really well. It was always a conscious effort to develop more, but the quality wasn’t always available. We still produced a number of good English players but now in every position in the youth team we have good ones.”Wilshere has been with Arsenal from the age of nine, like another of Tuesday’s tyros, Gavin Hoyte. Their emergence is testimony to the work done by the club’s youth development department, headed by Liam Brady. Steve Bould, the under-18 coach, and Neil Banfield, who runs their reserves, are responsible for ensuring that youngsters graduate to the first team set-up already playing the “Arsenal way” but the driver of the club’s success with youth is talent identification.Many prospects, such as Vela and before him Fabregas, Walcott and Denilson, go straight into the senior squad on arrival. After meeting the press on Friday, the manager held his weekly summit with Steve Rowley, his chief scout. There the latest young targets are reviewed and plans finalised regarding which weekend games Rowley’s global network of 23 star-spotters (seven in England, 16 abroad) should attend.Rowley spent Friday morning showing Vela’s parents the club facilities. Three years ago his South American expert, Sandro Orlandelli, called from the world youth championships in Peru and told him: “Turn on your television.” Vela was starring in a preliminary game. Rowley immediately booked a flight that took him via Miami to Lima. He arrived for the final, in which Vela’s Mexico defeated a Brazil side featuring a player already on Rowley’s radar, Denilson. Real Madrid and Valencia were closing on Vela, the tournament’s golden boot winner, so Rowley moved to contact the striker’s club, Chivas, and by the next day had pulled off a deal.Fortune always plays a part in scouting. In a hot-dog queue Orlandelli bumped into a man wearing a T-shirt bearing Vela’s picture: it was the player’s father and they struck up a rapport. But Vela might have chosen Arsenal in any case. Wenger’s willingness to blood talent is a powerful selling point. “The reputation of Wenger was the main thing that brought me to Arsenal,” Vela said.Continuity is key. Brady has been in his post since Wenger took over. Rowley has scouted for Arsenal for 30 years: his first discoveries were Ray Parlour and an 11-year-old centre-back he saw playing for West Ham, Tony Adams. His job changed for ever when Wenger arrived in England. Previously, a trip outside the home counties was considered an event for an Arsenal scout. At their first meeting, Wenger said: “Steve, this weekend I want you to go to . . . Teresina.” It is a city in northern Brazil, requiring a journey to Rio de Janeiro, then a further five-hour flight to reach it. Rowley had travelled no further than Spain on holiday. Now he has more air miles than the Space Shuttle. He insists on watching every youngster personally before he is recommended to Wenger. Thoroughness is Rowley’s hallmark.Every scout carries a laptop with access to Arsenal’s exhaustive worldwide database and, when they see a new talent, they file a report. If Rowley likes it, he will ask that the player be monitored in further games before sending a scout from another territory to provide a second opinion. Should the soundings still be positive, he will view the prospect himself. Only then is a dossier presented to Wenger. About 150 youngsters a year are examined in this way; only two or three are signed.Sometimes it’s easy. “For Fabregras, you watch him once or twice and that’s enough,” said Rowley. “Other players may play in a poor league, so you need to watch them when they come up against a good team. There’s no set rule.”Fabregas was spotted by Francis Cagigao, a typical member of Rowley’s network. Scouts must do more than find talent. Detective work is required. What is the player’s contract status? Does he have an agent? Who else is interested? And parents have to be charmed. Rowley looks for “personality, enthusiasm, knowledge, experience”, when appointing scouts, and an understanding of the “Arsenal way” is vital. Cagigao played for Arsenal, as did Gilles Grimandi, scout for France and Switzerland, Danny Karbassiyoon (US and Mexico) and Peter Clarke (Holland). Tony Banfield, who covers Italy, Croatia and Slovenia, is Neil’s son.Foreign clubs — most recently Zenit St Petersburg — have offered Rowley big money to join them and a youth coach at Ajax Amsterdam described how, at every game, he scans the touchline to check for Rowley’s presence. “I don’t mind Chelsea or Bayern Munich or Milan turning up but, as soon as the big guy from Arsenal appears, I know I’m about to lose a good one,” the coach said.Sometimes, though, only Wenger can make the difference. Aaron Ramsey chose Arsenal over United after the manager laid on a private jet to fly him and his parents to a meeting in Switzerland. Thirty clubs were pursuing Havard Nordtveit, a teenage Norwegian centre-half. The day Wenger returned from a holiday, Rowley buttonholed him about the player. The next morning, at six o’clock, Wenger was on a Ryanair flight to Norway to meet Nordtveit and his family.Nordtveit and Brazilian full-back Pedro Botelho are on loan from Arsenal to Salamanca, where Vela spent a season while awaiting a UK work permit. Alex Song, Johan Djourou and Nicklas Bendtner are among others who have benefited from Wenger’s astute use of the loan system, while Merida had a sabbatical at Real Sociedad. Rowley says Wenger can spot in one practice session what his scouting team might take seven viewings to divine about a player. He knows that every recruit must be good enough to share a pitch with someone like Fabregas immediately. Wenger makes it policy to throw every new kid arriving straight into first-team training to assess his status. What does the manager seek in youngsters? “To be technically gifted, agile and intelligent,” he said.Intelligent. Wenger believes footballers must tick four boxes. Only two relate to the physical; intellect and mentality are the others. Players with brainpower, he feels, analyse themselves and improve quicker. Rowley is looking at ways of bringing psychological testing into the recruitment process. His next scouting appointments will be in Australia and Africa. Arsenal’s reach is lengthened by Wenger’s contacts around the globe. His friend Jean-Michel Guillou, who discovered Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, has set up academies in Africa, Asia and Europe with which the club is in commercial partnerships. Scouting has saved Arsenal not millions but hundreds of millions. Last year Premier League clubs spent £120m on players aged 21 or younger. Fabregas was acquired for about £700,000. Vela, contrary to reports that he cost £2.5m, arrived for a £125,000 fee that will rise to £550,000 if he plays 50 first-team games.Chelsea have lavished untold sums on a worldwide network of more than 60 scouts but have yet to find a Djourou, never mind a Fabregas. Liverpool have paid about £20m to bring 30 foreign youngsters into their youth ranks. Tottenham appointed Damien Commoli as football director because he worked with Wenger but that helped to prompt Martin Jol’s departure and Juande Ramos ignores the bulk of Commoli’s “finds”. At Newcastle, the controversial appointment of Dennis Wise and his team of player recruiters was made because owner Mike Ashley wanted to “do an Arsenal”.The unique cannot be copied. The most respected systems outside Arsenal are those that go their own way — Leeds, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa. United had a lean spell with young players until Ferguson revitalised his system, learning from Wenger by expanding his world scouting network and using his greater spending scope to acquire top prospects such as Cristiano Ronaldo, whom Sporting Lisbon almost sold to Arsenal until United’s £12.2m bid.Lionel Messi was another “one who got away”. At 16 the Argentine was interested in following his close friend Fabregas from Barça to Arsenal but work permit issues got in the way.Perhaps at United, Liverpool or Chelsea, Wenger would not have been allowed three trophyless seasons but his conviction that silverware is round the corner if he keeps trusting in his young players is as powerful as was Ferguson’s when he let senior players leave United and promoted Beckham & Co. Perhaps in Nyon, Wenger and Ferguson were talking about a common philosophy.“Why do I do it?” Wenger asked. “That’s the privilege of being a long time inside the club. You can win or lose but you can also give a culture and a way to play the game that lives beyond you.”Teenage recruits of ‘Big Four’ out on loanARSENALPhilippe Senderos (Milan) Pedro Botelho (Salamanca) Kerrea Gilbert (Leicester) Armand Traore (Portsmouth) Nacer Barazite (Derby) Havard Nordtveit (Salamanca)MAN UTDDanny Simpson (Blackburn) Fraizer Campbell (Spurs) Febian Brandy (Swansea) Tom Heaton (Cardiff) Lee Martin (Forest) Craig Cathcart (Plymouth)LIVERPOOLGodwin Antwi (Tranmere) Sebastian Leto (Olympiakos) Craig Lindfield (Bournemouth) Robbie Threlfall (Hereford) Adam Hammill (Blackpool) David Martin (Leicester) Jack Hobbs (Leicester) Paul Anderson (Forest)CHELSEALee Sawyer (Southend) Slobodan Rajkovic (FC Twente) Shaun Cummings (MK Dons) Ryan Bertrand (Norwich) Ben Sahar (Portsmouth)Teenage kicks: How Arsenal’s rivals are playing catchupMANCHESTER UNITEDSir Alex Ferguson has borrowed from Arsène Wenger the principle that the search for talent must be a worldwide one and refreshed his global scouting network. He has brought in fewer prospects, but ones who are already established. United gazumped Arsenal to buy Cristiano Ronaldo at 18. Wayne Rooney, Anderson, Rodrigo Possebon and the Da Silva twins also arrived as teenagers, all (including Ronaldo) costing £64m. At the same time, United have not forgotten local youth. Fraizer Campbell and Danny Welbeck are billed as future England strikers Notable young playersFraizer Campbell, Fabio and Rafael Da Silva, Danny Welbeck, Rodrigo PossebonLIVERPOOLRafael Benitez has tried to recreate the ‘Wenger system’, with 30 young foreign players spread across his reserve and youth teams. The cost of this programme is estimated to be £20m and last week the club was linked with Aislan, a 20-year-old Brazilian valued at £10.5m. Prospects are starting to graduate into the first-team squad, such as Damien Plessis, a French midfielder, and Argentine full-back Emiliano Insua. Almost the entire 2006 FA Youth Cup-winning side, however, was discarded and the club parted company with academy director Steve Heighway Notable young playersEmiliano Insua, Damien Plessis, Daniel Pacheco, Krisztian Nemeth, David NgogCHELSEAAfter spending £11m on a centre for the club’s youngsters, it cost more than £10m, in wages and compensation to Spurs, to employ Frank Arnesen as sporting director. More than 60 scouts are employed worldwide and about £30m is spent on teenage players. Yet Chelsea were humbled in last season’s FA Youth Cup final by Manchester City. They have also been active in poaching youngsters from English academies and settled out of court to avoid action after signing Tom Taiwo and Michael Woods from Leeds. Some fine players are emerging, including Scott Sinclair Notable young playersScott Sinclair, Michael Mancienne, Franco Di Santo, Slobodan RajkovicSuperscoutsSTEVE ROWLEY First struck gold for Arsenal when he poached an 11-year-old Tony Adams from West Ham. Travels the globe to see every prospect personally and enjoys a close relationship with WengerFRANCIS CAGIGAO A former Barcelona player, he is Wenger's eyes and ears in Spain and Portugal. Cagigao’s biggest coups were alerting the boss to Cesc Fabregas when the player was 14 and then helping lure a second Barça prodigy, Fran MeridaJOHN CALVERT-TOULMIN Hit a rich seam of success for United in Brazil, where he was instrumental in the deal that took Fabio and Rafael Da Silva to Old Trafford and spotted midfield prodigy Rodrigo Possebon at InternacionalEDUARDO MACIA Joined Liverpool after working with Rafa Benitez at Valencia as sporting director. Macia has played a major part in recruiting Liverpool’s Spanish prospects, who include Daniel Pacheco, a striker signed from Barcelona, and Gerardo Bruna, a midfield star poached from Real Madrid29.2The amount in millions that it has cost Arsenal for the 12 players brought in as teenagers. United have spent £64m, Liverpool about £20m and Chelsea £35m pursuing the same policyTHE WORLD STARCarlos Vela, 19 Sandro Orlandelli, Arsenal’s Brazil scout, was at the 2005 World Under17 tournament when he called Steve Rowley to say, ‘turn on your TV!’ n Rowley flew straight to Peru and after watching Vela in the final tied up a deal with his club Chivas n English clubs can sign anyone from the European Economic Area provided they are over 16 but work permit restrictions apply to players from further afield, such as Vela, from Mexico. Because he was not a full international, Arsenal had to ‘park’ him in Spain for two-and-a-half years, first at Celta Vigo then at Salamanca and Osasuna n After meeting criteria by proving himself to be a ‘player of outstanding value’, Vela was granted a work permit for Britain in May and scored a hat-trick in his first competitive start for Arsenal against Sheffield UtdTHE EURO STARCesc Fabregas, 21 European scout Francis Cagigao was so stunned when he saw Fabregas in an Under15 game in Barcelona, he phoned Rowley from pitchside to say, ‘Steve, you’ve got to come over...’ n In Spain clubs are prohibited from awarding professional contracts until players are 18. Arsenal exploited this loophole to lure Fabregas. No transfer fee was involved and a compensation sum of £700,000 was paid instead n Fabregas looked so at home he never left and became Arsenal’s youngest ever first-team debutant, aged 16 years and 177 daysTHE HOMEGROWN WONDERJack Wilshere, 16 Premier League rules only allow clubs to recruit players under 14 who live within 60 minutes’ travel time from their academies and Arsenal must vie with 15 other clubs in the London area. After a hiatus the Gunners are once more proving adroit at discovering local gems, such as Wilshere, who hails from Hertfordshire n Players must be eight or older before they can sign forms. Wilshere was nine. Around 120 boys attend the academy at Hale End and Wilshere was developed by a team of Under18s coaches headed by former player Steve Bould n Wenger believes in fast-tracking. Wilshere made his reserve debut shortly after his 16th birthday and was one of five kids selected to join the first-team squad for preseason training in Austria n Impressing there, he made his first-team debut against Blackburn aged 16 years and 256 days and is seen as the best English player of his age since Wayne RooneyTHE FEEDER CLUB AFRICANEmmanuel Eboue, 25 From 2001 to 2006 Arsenal had a feeder-club link with Beveren in Belgium, formed through Wenger’s close friendship with French guru Jean Michel Guillou, who sent players to Europe from the ASEC Academy in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast. n Kolo Toure went straight from ASEC to Arsenal. Eboue went to Beveren first, before being signed by Wenger. Guillou now runs a worldwide group of academies with which Arsenal have a commercial tie-up n Steve Morrow, the club’s former midfielder, oversees the link as part of his duties as International Partnerships Performance Supervisor and Wenger is in line to snap up any talent emerging from the ‘JMG Academies’ in Vietnam, Thailand, Egypt, Algeria, Madagascar, Mali, Ghana and BelgiumTHE BRITISH PROSPECTTheo Walcott, 19 After impressing at Southampton, the forward was snapped up by Wenger in January 2006, when he was 16, for an initial fee of £5m, eventually rising to £9.1m, though he did not sign a professional contract until he turned 17 in March 2006 n The subject of much hype when he was called up to the 2006 World Cup squad without making a League appearance, he has been slowly integrated into the club’s starting eleven. In August 2006, he became the youngest ever Arsenal player in European competition but did not make his first Premier League start until October 2006. Confirmation of his talent came earlier this month when he became the youngest England player to score a hat-trick, in the 4-1 win over CroatiaTHE BEST OF THE REST FROM TUESDAY NIGHT…1 Alexandre Song, aged 21, from Cameroon and Young Player of the Tournament in this year’s African Nations Cup2 Carlos Vela, 19, see above3 Aaron Ramsey, 17, helped Cardiff to last season’s FA Cup final, then joined for £5m4 Johan Djourou, 21, the Swiss centre-back recently celebrated a new contract5 Kieran Gibbs, 19, his improvement at left-back has made him understudy to Gael Clichy6 Jack Wilshere, 16, see above7 Gavin Hoyte, 18, older brother Justin moved to Sunderland in the summer, allowing Gavin to step into the right-back position8 Mark Randall, 19, the fourth Englishman in the lineup, he is another creative midfielder9 Fran Merida, 18, Barcelona-born midfielder recently returned from loan in Spain10 Nicklas Bendtner, 20, forward who was the most experienced player with 21 Danish capsLukasz Fabianski , 23, Polish international who was captain on Tuesday http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/foo...icle4837568.ece

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

read this yesterday, i like arsenal still and in terms of arsenal this is good but this guy chats the most sh*t when it comes to other teams reserves and youth team players, he makes them seem sh*t which makes arsenals youth players seem far superior to other teams when they are in the case of some but not in the case of the ones he's comparing them to in this. Dont get me wrong arsenal have sick youngsters but other teams do to shown by the youth teams actual achievements over the past few seasons. I hate the way he had to make it biased to appeal to arsenal fans when he could have just avoided making it so biased and still had a similar impact. looking deeply into the youth setups you can see the best ones and what make them the best. I like reading about the youth setups but hate when they make articles like this so biased, they should just stick to fact if they are gonna try and throw in other teams to compare.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its all good bashing over that result, but that "team" probz cost more than the whole sheff utd squadif they wer THAT good they would be playing or at least involved week in week outyes it was a great performance but we have been here soooo many times Aliadire against Wolves, then beating Man City away..half of them probz wont cut itWhat has he achieved with these guys in the past??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×